Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ode to the Self-Portrait

Don't ask me why I choose to torture myself and take my own maternity photos, aka "belly shots" - no not the kind that involve jello - but I do, and I am at it again.

Something about being a photographer lures me into thinking that I can take just as good of photos of myself as anyone else can. Ego, coupled with frugality, has taken me down the self-portrait path yet again. I have to admit though, by sheer luck, my maternity photos with my first pregnancy turned out really well, so I have convinced myself that I can do it again. Here's a shot from the first time around:

My first pregnancy at 35 weeks
with our dog. 
There were a couple of aspects of this photo shoot that were a gamble. First, I was in our bathroom with very little space to do much of anything and secondly, I was using film, pretty much making educated guesses on my camera settings and hoping like heck that the photos turned out!  

Much to my chagrin, they turned out better than I had expected.

Photo Tips:

Search your house high and low, near and wide for good light. At the time, we had a large frosted-glass window in our bathroom and I waited for the afternoon sun to filter through it to take the photos. That's the tip part, the luck part is that because of the lighting situation, it ended up blacking out the shower door, which believe it or not, is directly behind me.  

Invest in a tri-pod for this very reason. I would also recommend getting a small, what I am going to refer to as "counter-top", tri-pod. I see these in most all electronic departments and most come with flexible legs so that you can manipulate them in order to get just the right angle for your shot. 

Most cameras come with a self-timer, and that's all that I used here. On higher-end cameras you can also add a shutter-release. This eliminates the need for you to push the button and run like a mad woman, position yourself just right and hope you get there before your time is up!  (The latter can be quite comical and I have a family "portrait" that illustrates this perfectly - although, I don't know if it qualifies as a portrait when one member of the family is only half-way in the photo.)

I'm not done with my photos yet, but here is what I like the best so far with this pregnancy:

Silhouette at 28 weeks.

For a little bit of inspiration, I googled maternity photos and then added them to my Pinterest account to keep track of them. Check them out!

As you may be able to tell by now, I am a do-it-myself kind of girl. I throughly enjoy the creative process of having an idea, in this case inspiration for a photo, and seeing it through to the end. The process is very satisfying. 

I do run into frustration with this approach to life and there are times when I really need to just hand the reigns over to someone who knows what they are doing. 

To illustrate this quandry, I have an upcoming post that involves a tangled mess of yarn, a crochet hook and a not-so-happy hooker - no not that kind - that makes this point perfectly! 

In the meantime, be creative however you see fit, even if you're the only one who appreciates the outcome!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

DIY - Family Photo Collage Frame

What started out as a simple way to fill a space left on the wall of my son's room - after we took down his crib and put up his "big boy" bed one year ago - turned into filling a different kind of spiritual space.

When the crib came down, I had to hang something on the wall above his bed because the gap between the wooden letters spelling out his name, and the top of the bed was too much for me to handle.

In a devine moment of inspiration, I decided to print photos of my son's family members from both sides of our family and put them into a collage picture frame.  Unfortunately, there wasn't enough room for aunts and uncles, but we did squeeze in a space for his cousins, since he loves them so much.

There are four generations represented in this frame, and one has since passed, which makes me even more appreciative that pictures were taken when they were, because regardless of whether or not they are still here;

"Family is forever."

Trust me, I am not delusional. We all have moments when we aren't the biggest fan of someone(s) in our family for whatever reason, but honestly, they are forever and my husband and I really want to make that impression on our children.

The truly inspirational part of this story has nothing to do with simply hanging a picture frame, our son created that all on his own. 

It started as him standing on his bed and pointing to each photo and telling us who was in it.  Soon, it became a quiz of sorts and we would ask him where someone was and he would jump up, climb onto his bed and point to them.  At one point, he even asked where his youngest cousin was. (She had just been born - which reminds me, her picture still isn't in the frame!)

Family collage. If you want to add in more people, just use
a larger frame. The more the merrier!
Photo tip:

Try to take multi-generational photos when you can. Trust me, it will be worth it later on. Also, when creating a collage try to throw in some black and white or sepia-toned images amongst the color photos. Doing so breaks up the monotony of color photos, not to mention, some photos just look better without color.

Speaking of families, sometime soon I intend on creating a multi-generational family gallery on our hallway wall. Once, I do I will share that with you as well. You think I like pictures now, well I LOVE old pictures, and have some big ideas on what to do with them!

This project is so simple yet, at least for our family, it ended up meaning so much more than we had ever intended or imagined. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

When saying a little says it all

Is everyone a storyteller?  Larry Smith, editor of the online web publication Smith Magazine, thought so and in an attempt to encourage aspiring writers - and anyone for that matter - he issued a challenge for his readers to share their stories in six words.

Six. Not a paragraph, a page, an article or a full-length novel. Just six words.

What started out as a one-month contest in 2006, spawned into an out-pouring of honest, and often inspiring, six-word stories that continues to this day. I have to say, if you can't relate to at least one of them, you are not human. (Check out the website, the link is above. They even make t-shirts!)

I happened to learn about these "Six-word Memoirs" while flipping through the pages of the February issue of Magazine. There, covering six-pages (kinda ironic don't ya think?) are stories from their readers, of which I was slightly disappointed that none of them mentioned faith or God. Regardless, they were humorous, telling and inspiring none the less. The one that popped off the page for me came from a 22-year-old. It said, "Life gives lemons, but no juicer." Very true.

To say that coming up with only six words is a challenge for me is the understatement of the century, as I tend to want to be witty, clever, insightful, poetic and thought-provoking with everything that I write, and I always have been.

This isn't to say that I think highly of myself, or have any far-fetched and lofty words to describe my story, and those words would probably never come close to filling the pages of a book. However, I think in every storyteller, there tends to be a desire to express more than what is necessary.

So, six words it is. Without further a-do, and after much brow-furrowing, hand exercises and knuckle-popping, here it goes:
"God made me with a purpose."

Phew. That was much easier than anticipated. (P.S. - He made you with a purpose too!)

Now, as I embark on this "new chapter" of my life, the question of my purpose begs me to answer it, and I will - eventually.

For now, I will be pacified knowing that even if I don't know my exact purpose at this exact moment, it does exist, and God has given me this opportunity to to take time to define it. That is good enough for me.

What are your six words?  I really want to see what you come up with! Please post them in the comments below...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A dog and his boy

Recently, I ran across a quote that I knew I had to remember. It is a simple concept, and one very true in my house:

"Every dog needs a boy." 

This quote inspired me to re-vamp a picture frame that I have hanging next to the back door. The frame has three hooks and it has been used as a convenient place to hang the dog's leash.  All this time, I only had one photo of the dog gazing out at a pasture of cows, but I had never put anything in the two spots flanking that photo.  To say that this looked extremely tacky is putting it mildly, unless seeing the heads of the screws on the backboard of the frame is considered art.

I decided that this would make for a simple project that is both practical and thought provoking. I'll bet some of you have similar inspiration in your house too!

Before I get into the step-by-step, I want to say something about the photo, here's what I have in the frame now:

At the time, these two stared out the front window often. 
Photo tip:  There is a trick to photographing subjects that are "back-lit".  Your camera, on an automatic setting, will want to meter off of main light source - which is coming from outside in this case - and will underexpose your subjects.  If you have a simple point-and-shoot camera, the best thing you can do is make sure that your flash is on and fires when you take the photo. That way, your subjects will be properly exposed and the background will end up slightly over-exposed, which is fine. 

If you have a manual setting on your camera, or an SLR camera, set the Tv (shutter speed priority setting) to 1/100 second and pop your flash, so that it fires as well.  This does the trick! 

You would kick yourself if you missed this kind of "Kodak" moment when it presented itself, so practice taking pictures of your kids, pets, anyone who is willing, with the window directly behind them. (In daylight of course, it won't work the same at night!)

After I found this quote, I knew what to do with those two empty openings. I split the quote in half, hand-writing one half on one piece of textured scrapbook paper and the other half on the opposite piece using a thin-tip black marker.

Now onto the frame. Here is the super-simple photo tutorial:

Textured scrapbook paper. (Paper cutters are a life saver!)

Paper alone was too bland, so I found some thin ribbon
and added it to the bottom of both pieces of  paper.

I simply attached it on the back side with transparent tape.

"Every dog needs a boy."

There you have it!  I can't believe I hadn't thought of this sooner, but I think it was one of things that required a little bit of inspiration to come up with the perfect use for something that I already had. 

Here's to inspiration!